A decade ago, when white LEDs began entering the architecture marketplace in force, early adoption came with misgivings. The new light source would drastically cut electricity consumption over many more hours of life — but the color temperature was cold, or brightness seemed insufficient. Like most disruptive technologies, LEDs promised to revolutionize the industry. Just as soon as users could stop thinking twice about them.

Manufacturers have very quickly remedied those limitations since then, and Architizer asked USAI Lighting to walk us through the most interesting advances. The New Windsor, N.Y.-based manufacturer has a knack for lighting innovation, as family patriarch William Littman built the first fluorescent lights that GE introduced to the public at the 1939 World’s Fair.

Littman’s granddaughter Bonnie is president and CEO of USAI Lighting today. Sitting down with Architizer, she shared several projects that demonstrate the performance and aesthetic capacities of a new generation of USAI luminaires. Boasting recent improvements alongside unbeatable energy efficiency and minimal maintenance, our virtual tour proved that LEDs, once disruptive, are becoming dominant.

Seamless Substitution for Traditional Sources

While commercial lighting accounts for more than half of the LED marketplace, LEDs’ penetration of commercial lighting overall still has its best days ahead. The transition from old to new technologies is on display at Pirch, a 24,000-square-foot kitchen and bath showroom in Glendale, Calif., designed by Fitch with lighting design by Santa Monica-based Oculus Light Studio.

Photo Credit: Mark A. Steele Photography, Inc

Residential clientele are welcome to make themselves at home in Pirch; they can even grab an apron and saucepan in one of the demonstration kitchen’s cooking stations. Reflecting this easy interaction, Fitch decided to convey a domestic ambience in the room’s design, and Oculus followed suit with a mix of metal halide adjustable fixtures located in linear ceiling elements, combined with fluorescent wall washers, and LED accents. Utilizing BeveLED 2.0 with Warm Glow Dimming downlights, whose color temperature warms to 2,200 K as they dim, the effect almost exactly mimics the dimming curve of the beloved and familiar incandescent lamps still normally found in most American homes.

Color Customization

As the dimming spectrum showcased at Pirch suggests, contemporary LED luminaires can give users maximum control over color temperature. Color Select, another proprietary technology from USAI Lighting, is one such tool for color tuning, allowing designers and operators to illuminate a space in white light featuring a color temperature ranging from candlelight’s 2,200 K to the 6,000 K of a cloudless sky.

At Island Hotel in Newport Beach, Calif., local lighting studio Full Circle Design tuned color to orchestrate the mood of the hotel’s in-house restaurant, Oak Grill. The resulting luminaires, called Color Select, produce cooler light for business crowds at noontime, while on leisurely nights and weekends they emit a warm glow. Though Full Circle used Color Select mostly to experiential effect, its color tuning also promises real impact on human performance. Studies of circadian rhythms indicate that the blue spectrum — the color temperature dialed into Oak Grill for lunch hour — prompts energy and focus, while its absence cues the body for relaxation and sleep.